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Reflexive Verbs in French

Simply put, in French reflexive forms occur when something or someone does something to it/him/herself. Not very clear, so let’s see some examples:

Examples:

Je me lève le matin. / I get up (myself) in the morning.

Le chien se lèche les babines. / The dog licks (himself) his chops.

When this particular form occurs, the subject of the sentence (whether person, object or concept) is followed by the appropriate reflexive form, then the verb.  To wit:

Je    =>     me or m’ (when me is followed directly by a vowel)

Tu   =>     te or t’ (when te is followed directly by a vowel)

Il,elle,on  =>   se or s’ (when se is followed directly by a vowel))

Nous  =>   nous

Vous  =>    vous

Ils, elles  =>   se

We’ll use laver / to wash and   appeler / to call to illustrate:

Tu te laves les cheveux. / You wash your hair.

Tu t’appelles Mathieu. / You call yourself Mathieu.

CAREFUL! Use the correct reflexive form, or you will convey a meaning far different from what you intend.

Contrast:

Je me suis porté volontaire. / I volunteered myself.

Je l’ai porté volontaire. / I volunteered him.

In French, the following verbs are always reflexive :

s’écrier / to exclaim or cry out;  s’en aller / to leave or go away; se fier à / to trustse méfier de / to distrustse moquer de / to make fun ofse soucier de / to care about; se souvenir de / remember

Self-reflexive expressions :

se brosser les dents / to brush one’s teeth;  se casser la jambe / to break one’s leg;  se faire des amis / to make friends for oneself;  se mettre en colère / to get angry;  se rendre compte de / to realize that

Reflexive forms rules:

  • a reflexive form can be used to express that mutual actions are being performed:

Example: Nous nous parlons. / We talk to each other.

  • when two verbs follow each other in a sentence, the reflexive form follows the first verb and precedes the second, since the second verb always indicates which action is being performed.

Example: J’espère m’acheter une voiture. / I hope to buy myself a car.

  • commands:

# Affirmative commands: the reflexive form follows the verb and is attached with a hyphen

Example: Peigne-toi les cheveux. / Literally: Self-comb your hair.

Me and Te are converted to Moi and Toi, for direct personal commands

# Negative commands: the reflexive form precedes the verb

Example: Ne vous arrêtez pas! / Don’t stop!

  • reflexive forms can be used to differentiate verbal meanings (reflexive and regular forms have very different meanings):

Examples:

Je me proclame roi. / I proclaim myself king.

Je proclame le début des jeux. / I proclaim the begining of the games.

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